“¡Pura vida!” again from a piece of conserved Osa rainforest! New wildlife I’ve observed: many scarlet macaw pairs, a bicolored coral snake (the most deadly snake of the region), 2 deadly Fer-de-lances (the third-deadliest snake of the region), a boa at the beach, a 3-toed sloth neighbor, several toucans, a tamandua anteater, and many toad and froggy evening visitors!
As I reflect on my summer goals with Osa Conservation with daily journal entries (as per advice from Adrian Forsyth: Osa Conservation Secretary, co-founder of Osa Conservation, president of Amazon Conservation Association, vice-president of Blue Moon Fund programs, and renown natural history writer), I realize that some of them have been met, others in the process, and others have pleasantly hit me hard without notice.
Environmental science research: I entered with a general goal of learning more about how to conduct professional-level environmental research, and I knew it would be the easiest goal to reach this summer given the nature of my work. I believe I have up to this point surpassed this by designing a carbon-monitoring system from scratch using literature review, so that the project design complies with many of the most up-to-date recommendations from the international carbon-research community and will serve as creditable and practical data for Osa Conservation’s land regeneration and reforestation projects in the near future. It has been and continues to be a blast going into the field everyday and getting pretty close to being eaten alive by mosquitoes.
Local environmental advocacy: To respond to a very helpful comment I received on my first blog post, I am doing my entire internship here at Osa in Spanish, including speaking with my Costa Rican supervisor. It is tremendous practice and further helps me learn the lingo and vocabulary associated with nature and the environment so I can better communicate with the people surrounding me here. As of now, I have gotten the chance to explain my project and advocate carbon to other interns and the international Board of Directors in English and the workers and staff—with whom I interact most of the time—in Spanish. As a result of my own initiative, I am in the middle of contributing a bilingual post titled “¿Por qué carbono?” (Why Carbon?) to Osa Conservation’s public online blog (found HERE), which will update local and international readers on my thoughts and experiences here so far. I am also scheduling and will be practicing a general talk about Osa Conservation that is often and will be given at nearby farms and hotels in Puerto Jiménez for the same purpose on a smaller but more important scale. I hope to continue taking advantage of the ways that Osa Conservation promotes their organization and conservation as much as I can, especially touching on climate change. Costa Rica wonderfully seems to inherently value conservation, but I have heard no talk about climate change since I have been here. Climate change is the primary reason for tracking and paying attention to carbon, but perhaps motivations for monitoring carbon here may be more economic. Either way, I will be sure to address this in my blog post…and maybe the Princeton intern who recently told my supervisor, a staff member, and an intern that I am no less than obsessed with carbon.
Envisioning for a non-profit: I have been fortunate enough to live where the Executive Director—a former employee of Conservation International—lives on his days off from meetings and errands in San José. In this time I have regularly sat in on his conversations with guests and have listened to him describe Osa Conservation’s current projects and his plans for the new piece of land that was purchased 2 weeks ago with grants from funders like the Blue Moon Foundation and a loan: restored-forest and sapling monitoring, invasive species removal, active planting and experimental reforestation, building a school for organic and sustainable agriculture for local farmers, and a great deal others. Many of these projects are joint efforts with other highly relevant and quality environmental institutions like EARTH University: a wonderful university focused specifically on agricultural sciences (website HERE). By integrating myself fully in Osa’s professional and philosophical atmosphere, I have very fortunately learned a great deal about what it takes to move a non-profit forward and into which aspects of conservation to mentally branch in today’s modern environmentalist world. This axis of learning has been a beautiful one on which I hope to turn for the rest of my life.
Right now, I am probably most proud of 2 things: having learned to differentiate among many local plant families and genera, and my ability to coordinate a 4-person field-research team on 2 different projects in both English and Spanish everyday. An Earth and Environmental Sciences professor from Lehigh University actually has a somewhat similar project monitoring the survival rates of common local reforestation plant species in the same 20-hectare lot on which my project lies. Every summer (or winter, here) he sends 3 students to work on this project. However, for maximum efficiency managing all other 15+ land-stewardship projects, my supervisor asked me to take responsibility for completing both projects. As it turns out, this was a great idea. I am building my leadership and organizational skills, we are moving faster than ever on both projects, and everyone has more field buddies with whom to learn, laugh, and sing!
The research, networking, and advocacy skills that I am building by interning with Osa Conservation are undoubtedly super relevant and easily transferrable to my pursuit of environmental academia, career plans in environmental research and conservation, and on-campus involvements with groups like SEA.
Sending good vibes back to EST and every other time zone around the world!
Nick Medina ’14